01/03/2007 12:00AM

Gulf signal blocked for New York OTB

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Bettors at New York's offtrack betting sites were unable to wager on Gulfstream Park's races Wednesday, opening day of the meet, when the Florida division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association refused to give its approval to send the signal to the state's six OTB companies.

The horsemen, who must approve any simulcast contract, want to raise the simulcast rate from the current 2.55 percent of handle to 2.85 percent. According to Sam Gordon, president of the horsemen's group, the New York OTB companies were first notified of the horsemen's desire for a higher rate in September, and none of the companies replied.

Negotiations continued into Wednesday, when they stalled, said Gordon and Ira Block, executive vice president of legal affairs and general counsel for New York OTB.

"Our contract is with the track, not the horsemen," said Block. "We've had a contract between Gulfstream and New York OTB for several years. We pay the highest price to Gulfstream for their signal than any other Thoroughbred track in the country, and just hope Magna and their horsemen can overcome the circumstances that has resulted in the preclusion of New York customers from wagering on Gulfstream races."

Gordon said the horsemen do not intend to back down.

"Our stand is that we'll take 2.85 percent for the signal or we will not send it to New York OTB," Gordon said Wednesday. "Even with the rate increase, New York OTB would still be paying less for the signal than any other non-racing entity in the country. This situation has nothing to do with Magna Entertainment Corp. or Gulfstream Park. By law the horsemen control the sole rights to the signal."

Although track owner Magna Entertainment Corp. and the New York OTB companies have a simulcast contract, it is invalid because the horsemen did not sign off on it, said Kent Stirling, executive director of the horsemen's group.

"Magna has signed a contract with New York OTB without consulting with the horsemen, basically gambling that we'd agree with the rate," Stirling said. "They gambled and lost."

Calls Wednesday afternoon to Joe De Francis, executive vice president for Magna, were not immediately returned.